Simler v. Conner

Decision Date18 February 1963
Docket NumberNo. 59,59
Citation9 L.Ed.2d 691,83 S.Ct. 609,372 U.S. 221
PartiesA. J. SIMLER, Petitioner, v. Leslie E. CONNER
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

John B. Ogden, Oklahoma City, Okl., for petitioner.

Peyton Ford, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

This Court granted certiorari, 368 U.S. 966, 82 S.Ct. 440, 7 L.Ed.2d 395, to review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, holding that in a diversity action in the Federal District Court, state law, here that of Oklahoma, governs in determining whether an action is 'legal' or 'equitable' for the purpose of deciding whether a claimant has a right to a jury trial. Applying Oklahoma law, the Court of Appeals decided that a jury trial, although asked for by petitioner, was not here appropriate. 295 F.2d 534.

In this Court respondent frankly concedes that, contrary to the Court of Appeals holding, federal law governs in determining the right to a jury trial in the federal courts. Respondent seeks to sustain the result reached by the Court of Appeals, however, on the twin grounds that, applying federal law, no jury was required in this case because (1) the District Court properly granted summary judgment for respondent under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and (2) the present action is 'equitable' and not 'legal' in character.

We agree with respondent that the right to a jury trial in the federal courts is to be determined as a matter of federal alw in diversity as well as other actions. The federal policy favoring jury trials is of historic and continuing strength. Parsons v. Bedford Breedlove & Robeson, 3 Pet. 433, 446—449, 7 L.Ed. 732; Scott v. Neely, 140 U.S. 106, 11 S.Ct. 712, 35 L.Ed. 358; Byrd v. Blue Ridge Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc., 356 U.S. 525, 537 539, 78 S.Ct. 893, 900—901, 2 L.Ed.2d 953; Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 79 S.Ct. 948, 3 L.Ed.2d 988; Dairy Queen, Inc. v. Wood, 369 U.S. 469, 82 S.Ct. 894, 8 L.Ed.2d 44. Only through a holding that the jurytrial right is to be determined according to federal law can the uniformity in its exercise which is demanded by the Seventh Amendment1 be achieved. In diversity cases, of course, the substantive dimension of the claim asserted finds its source in state law, Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188; see Cities Service Oil Co. v. Dunlap, 308 U.S. 208, 60 S.Ct. 201, 84 L.Ed. 196; Palmer v. Hoffman, 318 U.S. 109, 63 S.Ct. 477, 87 L.Ed. 645, but the characterization of that state-created claim as legal or equitable for purposes of whether a right to jury trial is indicated must be made by recourse to federal law.

However, we do not agree with respondent that in this case a summary judgment was warranted or that this is an 'equitable' action not requiring a jury trial.

In two appeals in this case, the Court of Appeals has ruled that in view of conflicting facts presented by affidavits and depositions to the District Court, summary judgment was not warranted. We accept and do not dis- turb the ruling of the Court of Appeals on this phase of the case since it has ample support in the record.

On the question whether, as a matter of federal law, the instant action is legal or equitable, we conclude that it is 'lega...

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    • 2 Marzo 2010
    ...the Constitution and is "to be determined as a matter of federal law in diversity as well as other actions." Simler v. Conner, 372 U.S. 221, 222, 83 S.Ct. 609, 9 L.Ed.2d 691 (1963). That right, however, may be waived by prior written agreement of the parties. See K.M.C. Co. v. Irving Trust ......
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